Tag Archives: IOS

Apple’s IOS 10 Operating System: Mature and smooth – and it only took ten attempts.

IOS 10 Artwork
IOS 10 Artwork

Well, after ten versions Apple apparently has gotten it right with the IOS 10 operating system. An operating system (OS) – regardless if it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others – is never really finished. It is always a work in progress; features are added, bugs are squashed, compatibility with third party applications (apps) is improved – the list goes on and on.

If the operating system developer had only one hardware device to write OS software for it might be easier to get it right. Writing OS code that works reliably on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV for current devices, as well as for older devices, is quite a trick. There are thousands of permutations. Getting it right is very difficult, time consuming, and R&D expensive.

Apple is just about the only hardware manufacturer that also writes its own OS software. Samsung, Lenovo, Sharp, HTC, and dozens of others hardware manufacturers depend on OS software written by companies like Google (who makes Android OS software) and Microsoft (who makes Windows OS software) to develop their operating system software. Yes, I’m aware that Google also manufacturers the Google phone and the Chromebook, and that Microsoft manufacturers the Surface laptop. But these are “one-off” machines.

A few quick examples of improvements in IOS 10:

1. A completely redesigned Maps app that is simpler, bolder looking, and easier to use. A major improvement in day-to-day use. Location accuracy is also much better.

2. You can now read voicemail messages as well as listen to them. The voice transcription is pretty accurate and predictable.

3. The Photos app now includes the ability to organize by faces and map locations. Now you can easily find all the photos of your children and your friends. The map locations allows you to see all the photos you took in a specific location (as determined by GPS).

4. Siri is now open to developers so that you can directly tie into services such as Uber.

5. The music app tied to Apple Music is greatly improved in look and feel (see an expanded description below).

6. The Messages app has gone crazy! It has its own App Store. Add stickers, GIF’s, emojis and more.

7. iPhones now support a “raise to wake” feature that lets you see notifications without having to push a button.

8. The ability to remove Apple default (stock) apps like Stock, Weather, and most others. They can be reloaded later if you wish.

One detailed example:

When Apple introduced the “Music” app two years ago it was a mess. Missing options (like sorting lists), difficult navigation going from one area to another, inconsistency of menus are just a few examples. For a company that had just introduced its new 30-million-track service, like Spotify, it was a lame first attempt.

Last year’s IOS 9 update was somewhat better – but still not truly Apple in look or feel.

This year’s IOS 10 update is much better; a simpler, more stark appearing interface is easier to understand and use, with black and white graphics and text, while color is employed sparingly for emphasis. Sorting by artist, album, release date, and more, is available throughout the application. Song lyrics are also available for most tracks. The star rating system has returned to the joy of many long time iTunes users.

On a different subject – creativity:

Apple has been criticized for a lack of creativity since the death of one of its founders – Steve Jobs. I’m not sure that criticism is deserved. Here are three examples of recent product innovations.

1. The Apple Watch (second edition), has met with success from the media, retail, and the user communities. It’s now water-resistant, has a faster processor, improved operating system (3rd generation), longer battery life, and a less expensive starting price.

2. The Apple “W1” Bluetooth audio chip was just released. It is used on the new Apple AirPod wireless headphones, and several of the new Beats (owned by Apple) brand of wireless headphones. The W1 chips offers:

  • a. Extreme battery life – 40 hours of playtime vs 2-4 hours of most other wireless headphones.
  • b. Extreme range (distance) – up to 300 feet vs 33 feet of most other Bluetooth devices.
  • c. Simple pairing (connecting) interface – works with any Apple IOS 10 device by simply connecting to your first device, and then the rest of your devices are auto connected (if you use the same Apple ID on all of your devices).

3. The recently introduced MacBook Pro laptops with a new OLED color touch-bar located above the keyboard that dynamically changes depending on the software app being used.

My bottom line:

Apple is not perfect; not even close. But in many ways, they have innovative design, solid manufacturing, and great (read: loyal) customer support. I admit to being an Apple “fan boy”. 2017 will see the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what improvements and new features will be added to IOS 11. Stay tuned!

River Cruising for the tech savvy geezer

Viking River Cruise
Viking River Cruise

We just finished our first river cruise and it was fabulous!  If you watched “Downton Abbey” on PBS you saw commercials for Viking River Cruises. Those beautiful long ships cruising up and down famous rivers in Central Europe with vineyards, castles, palaces and beautiful German maidens passing you down a beer from off a bridge as you sail under it.  Ahhhh…

It was a great voyage – made even more fun with Apple mobile technology. I’d like to share a few techno things to help on your next vacation cruise – regardless if it is an ocean or river cruise. This is an update to my January 2015 ocean cruise review.

The good news is that practically all my gear worked on the plane and on the ship. The bad news is that it is not inexpensive and connections are slow and not very reliable. I brought along my iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air, Apple Watch, Beats headphones, Sony Alpha 55 DSLR camera, a few cables and one power “brick” that had five USB outlets. I have a great custom backpack that is designed to hold all my gear – it even has a special storage section for the iPad.  

Before leaving I went to AT&T (my cellular provider) and signed up for the $30 per month International travel option.  This gave me $1.00 per minute calls, unlimited texting and a whole 150MB of data (for checking email, etc.)  It wasn’t until the second day of our trip that I checked my account status and I was already way over 250MB of data. What?!? I had forgotten that being a tech guy I had my iPhone set to do automatic uploads from my Photos app, nightly backups to iCloud and other assorted syncs and backups.  Ouch!  I quickly changed my settings.

We flew Delta and in the United States most planes now have WiFi which runs about $8 – $10 for a 24 hour “pass.” Speed is acceptable, and reliability was very good. On the river cruise ship Viking offered free WiFi (we paid Royal Caribbean about $225 for a similar WiFi service on our last ocean cruise.)  Speed was very slow, and reliability was just “OK.” Don’t plan on streaming video or uploading photos. Audio streaming was just “OK” with a few disconnects. Email and dial-up type web browsing were “OK.”

During our vacation I took over 1,000 of photos with the Sony DSLR, the iPhone, and the iPad.  I backed them up to my iPad (just in case…) using an Apple Lightning SD card (from the Sony) connector and used “AirDrop” to transfer wirelessly from the iPhone.  When we arrived at our AirBnB rental apartment in Amsterdam at the end of our trip (where we had decent WiFi) I backed everything up to iCloud.

Our trip took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.  When we were on shore it was easy to connect to low-cost or free WiFi services. You may want to use a VPN (virtual private network) service while you travel when use use foreign WiFi services so that you don’t get hacked. 

Before we left home I downloaded some music and a few movies to my iPad and that made travel time on planes, and quiet times on the ship enjoyable. I also downloaded a couple of books both digital and audio through iBooks and Audible.com
I carried my iPhone in my front pocket (to avoid pick-pockets) and left the iPad on the ship in our cabins provided safe.
I must admit that I was amazed at the number of fellow passengers who used digital devices on the plane and on the ship. Mobile technology has really caught on for vacationers.

Here are a few cruising tips:

  • Pack one USB charger that has multiple USB connections.  Mine supports five devices.
  • Make sure that the ship and rental apartments support US 110 volt AC cords.  You may want to invest in a lightweight set of travel plugs. Our ship did.  Our rental apartment did not (we needed a converter plug).
  • Bring a second rechargeable battery and charging block for your DSLR camera.
  • Get a “Y” audio connector – so that you and your spouse can share music, books, or video with two sets of headphones to one device.
  • Bring along a second RAM storage card for your DSLR camera
  • Use an app like “Day One” Journal 2 to record your daily vacation notes so you can remember the name of that church or cathedral – and the name of that fabulous German beer was. Keep up with your journal everyday!
  • Shoot a mix of photos and short videos (30-60 seconds) and build an iMovie show from them.
  • In larger European cities use Uber or Lyft to get around.  More reliable and cheaper than regular taxi’s.
  • Use AirBnB for apartment and home rentals to save significant dollars over standard hotels.  Look at the owner reviews before making commitments. 
  • Carry a money belt or one of the around the neck security bags with RFID protection.  There are many pick pockets in larger European cities and they hang around cathedrals, airports, museums, concert venues, train stations and more.
  • Most of the countries we visited accepted Euros. Most museums, restaurants and shops accepted credit and debit cards as long as the card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it.  Most ATM machines accepted debit cards for cash advances – spitting out your new funds in Euros.
  • Check with your cellular provider in regards to using your phone overseas.  If you don’t you could come home to hundreds of dollars worth of charges for calls, texts, and email checking.  Have your provider help with turning off settings that have to do with backups and auto uploads and auto synchronization.

Bottom line – traveling with digital devices can be entertaining, informational and useful. Just make sure you take precautionary steps in advance. 

APPS: What’s on my iPhone/iPad right now.

Favorite IOS Apps
Favorite IOS Apps

A lot of my friends – and a lot of you readers – have asked me what apps do you recommend?  As an Apple “fan-boy” since 1978 I’ve used hundreds of apps on every Apple device imaginable. Over the years my long list of devices have included the Apple ][, Apple ///, Apple Lisa, Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Quite frankly there is no such thing as the perfect app.  Every app developer thinks their app is the best.  Few are.  Even great ones like Numerous for the iPhone/iPad which had over 150,000 active users recently died an untimely death due to a lack of customer funding.  The history of computer apps (from an earlier term: applications) is littered with a few standouts and thousands of little purchased and little used want-to-be’s.

To give you an idea how big the market for apps is, consider that Apple has over 1,500,000 apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod Touch. There are more than 15,000 apps available for the Apple Watch. In less than a year the Apple TV 4 has grown from 40 apps to over 5,000. Apps range in price from free to a thousand dollars or more! The average price for an IOS app for consumer use is $1.99. I’ve never understood how a person who spends hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone or iPad complains about the cost of an app that costs only a couple-of-bucks and has a lifetime of free upgrades.

I’ve compiled a list of my all-time top ten favorite apps for your consideration. Each app I use almost daily and each provides a good mix of features, performance and reliability. Note that some are free, some require a monthly or annual subscription, and a couple are reasonably priced. The list is in no particular order.

All of these apps work on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. Some also work on the Apple Watch, Apple TV and the Apple Mac.

Check out my Top Ten Favorite Apps by clicking here:  Tom’s Favorite Apps

You will be taken to my app page where you can read a brief overview of each App and then click on a link to open the app in the Apple App Store.

Enjoy! Comments and questions are always welcome. Tech support is available from each developers web site.

For Seniors: Updating to Apple’s IOS 9.0 software. Let’s do it safely!

 
 
Apple updates its software and has new product introductions all year round – but the most important ones usually come in the fall.

DO I NEED TO UPDATE MY DEVICE? 

No, for the most part. Certainly the old axiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” could apply here, but there are many good reasons to update your IOS software. New features, improved features, better security, bug fixes, new or improved Apple brand apps – and dozens of other things are all valid reasons to update.


I’M AFRAID TO UPDATE – I MIGHT SCREW SOMETHING UP!

Updates are easy – and usually safe – if you follow these steps:

1. Start by closing all open app’s on your device. Do this by double-tapping the home button at the bottom of the screen. You will see minature screens of each open app. Now use your finger tip to slide (swipe up) each open app window to the top of the screen – making it disappear. When you are done you should only have one screen open that can’t be closed.

2. Next restart/reboot your device by holding the power button and the home button down at the same time. In a few seconds your screen will go black – KEEP HOLDING – until you see the white Apple logo – and then let go of both of your fingers on the buttons at the same time.

3. Make sure that your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch are backed up. The best way is to do a full back up useing Apple’s iTunes software (make sure that the iTunes software is the most current version before doing this). The iTunes software is most likely already on your Mac, and can also be downloaded from the Apple support web site if you have a Windows PC. Make sure that the “Encrypt iPhone back up” box is checked before you start the back up. This way all your passwords, user names, PIN’s, health information and other secure stuff gets put in the back up file so that if you need to restore all that information is recovered.

4. After you have completed a back up go into the “Settings” App on your IOS device and scroll to find “General” settings. From there find “Software Update.” Now before starting make sure that your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch has a battery charge of at least 50% or more. Then choose “Start or Download” – allow 30-45 minutes for the software to download, verify, install and then reboot a time or two. You will need to know your Apple ID and password to complete the update.

5. There are many places ( including the Apple web site http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/ ) to discover the new and updated features of your updated software.

OK – SO YOU UPDATED YOUR IOS SOFTWARE – WHAT’S NEXT?

Sit back, relax and try out the new features of IOS 9. Try the new and improved “Notes” app. Notice the small (but usually noticiable) increase in speed and battery life. There are many reasons to love Apple. Certainly one is frequent updates that are always FREE. Enjoy!

Digital Magazine “Joy!” No, this is not an ad – but it could be.

 

My Favorite Magazines
My Favorite Magazines
 

The Bad News – Digital Magazines are a Nightmare!

I’ve messed with digital books, newspapers and magazines for over seven years.  I’ve tried them on everything from iPhones, iPads, Nooks, Kindle’s, Androids, Mac’s, PC’s and more…

IMHO the most difficult transition from print to electronic are magazines.  Books are much easier – any of the popular apps like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Nobles Nook make it very easy to read books – after all books are pretty much text and an occassional photo, drawing or map.  Newspapers are more difficult.  A good example of a digital newspaper done right is the USAToday app.
My favorite things to read are magazines.  But magazines vary in size, shape, design, use of photos, story length, publishing frequency, back issues and dozens of more “challenges.”

Over the years I’ve tried many digital magazines some in a horizontal format, some in a vertical format – some in both.  I’ve tried magazines on Mac’s and PC’s with large screens (up to 22″), tablets with 7″ and 10″ screens and smart phones with 4″, 5″ and 5.5″ screens.  Almost every attempt at reading magazines has led to disappointment.  Mostly because of small, almost unreadable text (requiring “Zoomed-in” text.) Poor formatting, and big download size (and time to download) were very discouraging.

Another big digital magazine hassle is the individual magazine app or Apple newstand app required to manage your magazine account(s).  Each required different log-in and password procedures, some required lengthy account numbers (from the magazine labels themselves) and on and on.

 

Sample  Magazine  Page
Sample Magazine Page
 

The Good News – “Next Issue” App solves everything

A realtively new company and app (for Apple and Android) is called “Next Issue” and has solved (for me) 95% of my digital magazine nightmares. The “Next Issue” app allows me to manage and read all the current and past issues of my favorite magazines.  The formatting is almost perfect on my iPad (10″ full size model) and actually usable on my iPhone 6 plus smartphone (5.5″ screen size).  The formatting features are pretty consistent from magazine to magazine.  The magazines download quickly (1-2 minutes, about 250Mb each).  It’s easy to download, delete, and re-download any issue of any of the over 140 supported magazines.  Web site links, video links, audio links and animation and special effects are all supported.

The cost – $9.99 per month for access to all monthly magazines that are supported.  $14.99 per month gets you all the monthly and the weekly (Time, People, etc.) magazines.  No contracts.  Free 30 day trial.  Actually saves me money because all my magazine subscriptions for the same print and or digital magazines was substantially more than $14.99.  Plus the same account can be used on up to five devices.

It won’t cost you a thing to check out “Next Issue” on your iPad or iPhone for the next 30 days.  Start here to see if your favorite magazine(s) are supported – I’ll bet most of them are: Next Issue Web Site (click this link.)  Then download the app from the Apple App Store or Android Play Store.

 

App in Apple App Store
App in Apple App Store
 
I’m very confident that if you enjoy reading magazines – you will enjoy “Next Issue” – and think about all the trees you will save!

Why do I do this every year? Apple Beta Software – YIKES!

  
For the last several years I’ve belonged to the Apple Developers Group.  This group consists of software developers, media writers, testers-of-all-things-Apple and dozens of other “types” of people who make up the Apple ecosystem for software.

Put me in the “types” labeled “curious.”  This means I’m looney enough to pay for the privilege of getting Apple system software in beta format earlier than you do.  Why?  Because I’m sucked in by reading tech news about all the great new features and improvements “coming soon” in OS X (for Mac computers), IOS (for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch) and now watchOS (for the new Apple Watch).

As always, Apples WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) is held in June in San Francisco and provides developers (and others) with Beta (early prototypes) software for them to use in developing new and improved software apps for the official release of the system software usually in the early fall.

The Good News:

You get a first look at new and improved features – like screen split views on iPad which allows you to run two apps side by side.  Or tap with two fingers on the on-screen keyboard and it becomes a trackpad to easily move your cursor around the page your writing or editing.

Apple’s desire – now that they have public Beta’s (usually available around a month after WWDC) – is to have hundreds of thousands of folks testing their software.  A generally good idea that helps in development and hypes the brand and the products.

The Bad News:

Beta software should really be labled “Buggy Software” because it simply is.  Apple software programmers write thousands of lines of code, and final software must be compatible with the over 1,000,000 software apps that are in Apples App store.  Not an easy job.   

Beta software “bugs” can range from being simply anoying, to actually “bricking” (stop your device from working at all) your Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Apple Watch.

The Bottom Line:

For most people you should “just say no” to beta software – from Apple, or anyone else.  If you MUST be the first on your block to have the latest Apple software then heed these two simple rules:

1.  Use a second device – an old iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch or Mac that is not your primary day-to-day device so that if something catastrophic happens – it won’t happen on a device that you depend on.

2.  Wait for the public Beta that Apple provides by going to: https://beta.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/welcome  and registering.  You will receive software that is sort-of “beta second edition.”  Meaning it’s gone through a couple of cycles of testing before releasing to the general public.

Good luck!

The iPhone 6 Plus – Perhaps the best iPhone for seniors – EVER!

IMG_0011-0.JPG

Kudos to AT&T for under promising, and over delivering. My shiny new iPhone 6 Plus arrived almost three weeks earlier than the original order confirmation said it would.

How do I like it? As Steve Job’s would have said… “magical”

Although it’s huge compared to older iPhones, it is so thin, rounded and lightweight that it doesn’t seem to be so large.

I bought Apple’s leather carry case which is buttery soft yet rugged enough to give you peace of mind in holding the iPhone.

The 5.5″ screen is phenomenal – so sharp, clear and easy to read everything from books to movies.

This iPhone has tricked me several times by making me “think” that I’m using my iPad! It’s that good.

It works with pretty much all my “toys” like my Apple BlueTooth keyboard and my Beats BlueTooth “Pill” wireless speaker system. AirPrint to my HP printer and AirPlay to my Apple TV all work great.

I love IOS 8 – and after a few automatic free software updates – all my app’s are working great.

Sure it looks a little strange when I hold it up to my head to make or take a phone call, but when you consider I spend 1% of my time on the phone, and 99% of my time using the phone like a tablet computer then I say “bah” to those that say it looks like a waffle when you hold it to your head.

Does it fit in my FRONT pants pocket? Absolutely! But than I wear Lands’ End “classic fit” (read loose fitting), and not “skinny” or “painted on” trousers. Has it bent or warped? Nope.

Could this finally be the device that makes me give up my iPad and Mac and carry only one device – well the jury is still out – but it’s gonna be close.

Thanks Apple, for making the perfect smart phone for senior geezers and geezerettes – the new iPhone 6 Plus. PERFECTO !!!